February 5, 2013
New Halley Research Facility Opens In Antarctica
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A new scientific research facility in Antarctica has now officially opened, helping to bring a modern twist to adventuring to the most southern part of our world.
The Antarctic Research Station has opened 100 years after Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctica expeditions, replacing the 20-year-old Halley V facility.
The Halley VI Research Station is the sixth to be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf, the first station established in the region and is as an important natural laboratory for studying the Earth's magnetic field, as well as the near-space atmosphere.
“The new Halley Research Station is a triumph of British design, innovation and engineering," David Willetts, UK Minister for Universities and Science, said while speaking at an event in London. "The UK´s world-class polar science community now has a unique, cutting edge suite of laboratories on the ice."
He said the legacy of Captain Scott will continue on in this facility, helping to keep on with the strong track record of scientific discovery in Antarctica.
Halley VI Research Station was designed by AECOM engineers and Hugh Broughton Architects, helping to create a facility with living accommodations capable of withstanding extreme winter weather and standing tall above the deep annual snowfall.
The first four Halley bases built were all buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable. The Halley V facility was built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep above the snow surface. However, the station's legs were fixed to the ice, so it could not be moved, and its occupation became too close to a dangerous position on an iceberg.
A $40 million contract was awarded to Galliford Try, which carried out the construction through four Antarctic summers lasting just nine weeks each. The teams building the facility hung out in freezing conditions around the clock to complete it.
“The long-term research investigations carried out at Halley since the 1950s have led to deeper understanding of our world," Professor Alan Rodger, Interim Director of British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement. "In half a century, society has been alerted to our changing climate, about the possibility that melting ice in the Polar Regions will increase sea-level rise, and that human activity can have an impact on the natural environment."
Rodger said the polar regions can work as the Earth's early warning system, offering up the first signs of global change.
"This is the first summer field season for Halley and already, our scientists there are working collaboratively with colleagues from USA including NASA on studies that will gain new knowledge about how our world works," he added.
The Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council said the Halley VI Research Station demonstrated NERC's long-term commitment to Antarctica.
"We look forward to the excellent science that is made possible by Halley's unique location on the Earth's largest ice cap," Professor Duncan Wingham said in the statement.
Scientific efforts being performed on Halley VI Research Station will help with the understanding of ozone depletion, polar atmospheric chemistry, sea-level rise and climate change. The station will operate throughout the year, with a maximum population of 70 in the summer, and an average of 16 over the winter.